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JACKSONVILLE, Fla.—It wasn’t a great start for Jake Eder, one of the top prep lefthanders in the 2017 class.
The Calvary Christian Academy (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.) senior got the first Trinity Christian Academy (Jacksonville) hitter out Friday night, but walked the next three batters, throwing nine straight balls at one point and missing high with his fastball. He rebounded to strike out the next hitter for the second out.
But so close to escaping the inning, Eder’s command failed him again and he walked another hitter and gave up a bloop hit. Suddenly, it was 3-0 Trinity Christian.
“You don’t always have your best stuff,” Eder said after the game. “But after that first inning I just tried to calm down and make adjustments and stay competitive for my team.”
Eder’s adjustments worked in the second and third innings. He got two ground-ball outs before walking another in the second, but he punctuated that inning with a swinging strikeout. He added two more punchouts in a 1-2-3 third, sandwiching them around a routine flyout. He left the game after three innings, having thrown 69 pitches.
While Eder’s results weren’t there in the first inning, he showed promising stuff and significant improvement over his performance from last summer, a trend that began to take affect last fall. His fastball sat at 90-94 mph in the first inning before settling in at 88-92 in the third. The pitch showed life through the zone and got on hitters quickly.
A few things stick out from Baseball America’s history with Eder. He has shown flashes with his deep 1-to-7 curveball but has consistently struggled to time his delivery and stay on top of it. He has also consistently shown late life on his fastball and used it to compete against some of the nation’s best hitters. He’s always shown projectable arm speed and he’s had a wide-shouldered frame with a durable look.
In the fall, scouts told Baseball America that Eder had shown promising progress at the Florida Diamond Club Showcase, which takes place prior to the WWBA Championships in Jupiter, showing more fastball velocity. In the spring, numerous sources have seen Eder work at 92-95 mph and throwing more consistent strikes than he did this past start. Notably, Eder had not thrown a changeup on the showcase circuit. On Friday night, it was his best off-speed pitch.
“I think the biggest thing is just throwing it every day and throwing it from longer distances to make sure I get out front with it and get on top of it,” Eder said.
Eder’s changeup was effective against Trinity Christian, with a fastball look out of the hand and feel to locate it away from righthanded hitters. If Eder can throw more consistent strikes, his changeup projects as an average or better offering.
The lefthander used his changeup against righthanded hitters and busted out his curveball against lefties, looking to run it through the front door. When he landed it against lefties, the pitch had sharp vertical dive, though it consistently looped up out of his hand before showing a clear breaking point. Eder’s first curveball in the bullpen showed late teeth as he located it to his glove side. Throwing his curve with the same arm speed and arm action as his fastball will be key for Eder.
“I think it’s more of a timing thing with that, just making sure I get out front on that,” Eder said of the development of his curveball. “The biggest thing is just making sure my timing is there. Just making sure everything is in sync so I can throw strikes and stay competitive.”
Being in sync will be a key developmental challenge for Eder. He has the ability to spin a breaking ball, throw hard and throw a changeup, but timing his delivery will be the key to allowing those traits to play.
Eder is not a long strider. He leans back over the rubber and doesn’t have the most balanced lower half. His front side can be early at times, and he doesn’t consistently get his torso deep out over his front side. He does have an efficient and repeatable arm action and his fastball is difficult to square up when he’s able to locate it down in the zone, though he showed on Friday a tendency to release his fastball late and miss low, perhaps in an effort to correct for his early-game struggle to keep the ball down in the zone.
It’s still early in the draft process, but Eder is in the conversation among the best prep lefthanders in this year’s class. DL Hall and MacKenzie Gore are in a league of their own at the top, with Eder being in the same range as Jacob Heatherly. Others to look out for include Seth Corry, Logan Allen, Mitchell Stone and Hugh Fisher.
Baseball America first learned of Eder after he showed promise at the Prospect Select TOPPS showcase in October of 2015. Here’s a quick summation of Eder’s performances on last summer’s showcase circuit:
• June 17, 2016 (Perfect Game National Showcase): Eder struck out four (two looking) and walked one. All five balls in play off of him were ground balls. He showed a loose and easy arm action and pitched with a sinking fastball at 88-91. He threw a well below-average, soft-spinning curveball that he struggled to get on top of.
• June 23 (Tournament of Stars): Eder pitches at 90-91 mph and sprinkles in some 92s. His breaking ball flashes average spin and he’s able to backdoor it to righthanded hitters with 1-to-7 shape, striking out Jacob Farmer (swinging), Francis Villaman (looking) and Kyle Jacobsen (swinging). Eder faced 13 batters, striking out four, walking two and generating four ground balls, one line drive and one infield popup. His low 70s breaking ball showed promise on this day but he still struggled to time his delivery and stay on top of his pitches.
• June 26 (Tournament of Stars): Pitching for the third time in nine days, Eder starts off with his fastball at 85-88 and curveball at 66-69, before settling in at 82-84. Even with his velocity down, Eder strikes out five in two innings, getting Jacob Pearson to swing over two curveballs. While his curveball looked slow out of his hand, he was able to generate late vertical action on the pitch with projectable shape and the ability to compete in the zone. He walked two, generated two ground balls and an infield flyout.
• July 23 (Under Armour All-America Game): In his one inning of work, Eder pitched at 89-91 and touched 92. He struck out two, both looking, and walked one. He did not throw his curveball in the game, but the pitch showed sharp spin despite looping upward out of his hand in warmups.
• Aug. 7 (Area Code Games): Eder faced an outstanding lineup in the Southern California Brewers and he pitched at 89-92. His curveball worked at 72-75, flashing above-average bite with three-quarter shape against the first batter he faced (Nick Allen), though the pitch often backed up and did not consistently show at its best. Eder struggled, walking six of the 10 batters he faced. He allowed no hits, struck out one and generated two ground balls and one infield popup.
• Aug. 10 (Area Code Games): The Vanderbilt recruit got better results this time around, facing seven batters and generating two ground balls, two flyouts and an infield popup. He struck out one. Eder pitched at 86-89 with excellent sinking action on his fastball.
• Oct. 22 (WWBA Championships): In Baseball America’s one-inning look at Eder, he pitched at 89-90 and was underneath his 72-73 mph curveball. He struck out two batters looking at his curve and hit one batter and got an infield popup.